In the town of Gympie, a group of Kabi elders are fighting to preserve what they claim is a sacred site to their culture and nation: D’Jaki Kundu.
Author: Casey Abel
Approximately two hours north of Meanjin (Brisbane) a group of elders from the Kabi Nation and their allies are occupying a site of spiritual, cultural and historical significance. The land in question is an area of old housing estates, long since demolished, known for its hilly terrain with a particular ‘rocky ridge’. This rocky ridge has entered the local folklore of Gympie leading some locals to erroneously refer to the hill as ‘the Gympie Pyramid’. Of course, these structures were not built by long lost Egyptians.
According to the Kabi peoples this area is known in their culture as D’Jaki Kundu, which translates into English literally as ‘Rocky Ridge’. Named for the stone structures built by their ancestors, including the multiple walls on the bottom of the hill, as well as the giant standing stones at the summit. The area is is beholden to many areas significant to the Kabi including men’s and women’s gathering places, multiple sites of grinding stones, a healing stone, what appears to be the remnants of an old well, and reportedly multiple caves within the hill itself.
Contention in the local community has arisen as the old land lots that share D’Jaki Kundu have been purchased by the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR). The DTMR is in the process of constructing a new road on the North Eastern outskirts of Gympie as part of the much anticipated series of upgrades to the Bruce Highway. The specific upgrade of relevance is listed in official documents as ‘Section D: Woondum to Curra’. Section D involves the construction of some 26kms of new road which will run through D’Jaki Kundu.
The DTMR has claimed since 2019 that they have been in consultation with elders from the Kabi Nation in negotiating the construction of the Bruce Highway upgrades. This assertion has been rejected by the Kabi elders present at D’Jaki Kundu. According to a fact sheet on the DTMRs website:
Numerous studies by qualified experts and surveys by Kabi Kabi
registered native title claimants were undertaken at the site. These
studies found no tangible evidence of Aboriginal cultural heritage.
These claims have been strenuously denied by the Kabi Elders who claim they have not been approached by the DTMR.
Witnessing D’Jaki Kundu
I arrived at D’Jaki Kundu on the morning of Wednesday the 17th of February after having seen an online plea for assistance posted to social media by Kabi elders. As stated on their Facebook page Kabi Dreaming in a post dated 15/02/2021:
…a TMR agent threw a letter over the fence, making what we believe are totally false claims, threatening us with trespass charges, and demanding we vacate our sacred site within 48 hours.
In response to the purported letter, the Kabi held one of many ‘Bunya Gatherings’, the coming together of Kabi peoples and allies on country. I had the privilege of being in attendance to this gathering. The Kabi are continuing to protect their land at the time of writing, and wish to emphasise they are engaging in a religious and spiritual practice in defending their lands rather than engaging in a protest.
The events of Wednesday the 17th were remarkably peaceful and social. The police did not arrive to remove the Kabi elders as implied by the letter. I enjoyed the company of Kabi Elders for two days, learning about their culture, history and the site before moving on. During this time the only police presence was two police cars driving past the site on the Thursday and Friday. The Kabi have been camping on country at D’Jaki Kundu since January 25th, and are anxious of police raids happening at any moment.
Reportedly, the Gympie police have a history of prejudice towards First Nations peoples, and several of the Kabi elders claim to have been the victims of police violence in the past. As a safety measure, every member of the campsite carries with them a whistle, and it was to this shrill sound that I awoke at 0200 hours on Thursday morning. Scurrying to put on some clothes in the dark, someone was seemingly whipper-snippering nearby. Upon exiting the tent, the sound was in fact a large drone snooping about close to ground-level. It is unknown to whom the drone belonged. The elders convened and determined to post watch until morning. I volunteered to go first and enjoyed the company of two other elders until 0400 hours, in which time nothing of note occurred.
On my final day with the Kabi on country, I was privileged to be given a tour of D’Jaki Kundu as well as permission to photograph most of the relics for publication. The lands of D’Jaki Kundu have not been returned to the Kabi people, and as such the Kabi have not been able to care for the land. Invasive plant species occupy a lot of space, particularly large cacti. The uncontrolled environment is covering a lot of sacred artefacts, and potentially hiding many more. Upon descending the hill to the man-made stone ridges I observed multiple smaller sections of fragment ridges barely visible beneath the undergrowth.
I inquired as to whether I could be shown any of the caves, but was told the only accessible one was sealed by Kabi elders to prevent vandalism. I requested to be shown some manner of proof that the caves exist to justify my reporting on them. Kabi elders permitted me to witness a document obtained from the DTMR. In 2017 the DTMR conducted a survey of the D’Jaki Kundu, and while the government does not officially recognise the existence of caves inside the hill, their scans revealed multiple large and lengthy potential ‘air cavities’. I witnessed this document in person. Readers wishing to know more of this source should contact Kabi Dreaming.
To ensure these pictures exist in the public domain, The Meanjin Inquirer is presenting them captioned below. Readers are encouraged to make use of and to share these images. Please credit these images to Casey Abel of the Meanjin Inquirer.
Partial Gallery of D’Jaki Kundu